Empathy to Certainty – When Your Birth Plan Goes Out the Window
By Jason Young, DC
My wife Dr. Rebecca Huddleston and I have been fortunate enough to be in practice almost ten years now and have treated hundreds of women during pregnancy, as well as their newborns. In fact, in practice we focus on prenatal care, children and families. We love seeing pregnant bellies and babies, knowing the infinite potential God has created within. It is truly a gift to help new moms experience a blissful pregnancy and to help reinforce their ability to grow and carry a child(ren) and then be able to deliver on their own terms, as they were designed.
The differences in pregnancies for those mothers who have had previous children without chiropractic care has been positively astounding over the years. To have mothers finally experience what pregnancy can and should be – blissful! To experience less aches and pains and less sickness. Followed by a beautiful labour and delivery with shorter duration and less need for pain meds or interventions. Not to mention the positive outcomes of checking babies after birth has been just as profound, because no matter how natural the birth process can be, it can also be one of the most traumatic experiences. It can absolutely create subluxations (misalignments in the spine choking off nerve flow to the body) in their little spines as they first enter the world. As you may be aware, it is the subluxations that can cause torticollis, colic, and constipation, to name only a few symptoms commonly seen in newborns. The wonderful pregnancy and birth stories we share as chiropractors are all too common to those in the know.
As chiropractors, we have been a part of beautiful birth plans over the years, but what happens to those birth plans that go out the window? What happens to the families who plan and do all the right things during pregnancy and then when it comes time to deliver their natural, unassisted birth plan is no longer an option? This is where my story begins.
My beautiful wife Rebecca and I are blessed to have three wonderful children. The most recent child was born July 2016 through a process completely opposite of our birth plan. Before I get there, let me share our first two experiences. After being married, we discussed and decided we would like to try and have children. As part of the process, we looked at the pros and cons of having a midwife versus an OB. We decided that for us, a midwife was more in line with our beliefs, because of their trust in pregnancy and the birth process, as well as the belief that women are designed to do this. Hence why we survive as a species.
We were hopeful that we would be able to get pregnant and carry children while friends and family members struggled for years to conceive. We were blessed to find out fairly soon that we were expecting our first child in 2008. We contacted the local midwife as soon as we knew. There was only one in the area and could only take three births a month. Luckily we got in with her. It was also at a time when midwifery in Alberta was not covered, so we had to pay out of pocket. Worth every penny.
Rebecca did amazing during her pregnancy. She was well adjusted, active, and had a wonderful support group of friends and family. Our daughter Sidney was born in October 2008, ten days over her due date at home in the bathtub, without drugs or interventions. Sidney was 7.2 pounds and 21 inches long. Our support team at birth was our midwife, her back-up, and a doula. It was such an incredible experience I will never forget. The ability for women to support and deliver life is amazing. Of course, as her dad, I quickly checked her out and adjusted her. She was so bright eyed and bushy tailed. She is still singing all day every day.
We knew we wanted more children, but shortly after Sidney was born, Rebecca was in an accident that badly damaged her low back. She was incapacitated for seven months, stuck in a bed with very little ability to move around. After months of various treatment modalities, chiropractic, craniosacral, reiki, and acupuncture, she started to heal and regain her mobility.
Although we wanted more children, knowing the amount of damage sustained to her low back, we were not sure if she could have more children or be able to carry them safely. We met with other colleagues and multiple neurosurgeons seeking their opinions regarding Rebecca’s ability to safely carry more children. We were fortunate enough to get positive feedback that she was strong enough and made a great recovery. She should be able to conceive and carry without any major concerns for her or the baby.
Excited, we decided to try again and soon conceived our second child. Rebecca had another great pregnancy, although she commented on how her tummy was bigger this time and she seemed to show sooner. Cooper was born in December 2012, 14 days over his due date at home with the help of another midwife, doula and our daughter Sidney. However, his size was a surprise to us all, especially Rebecca. Cooper was 10.1 pounds and 23 inches long. Well-done honey! High five!
Now more recently, our third child was born. Tristan was born July 2016, 18 days past his due date, weighing in at a whopping 12 pounds and 22.5 inches long. Sorry honey, but amazing job! However, the way Tristan got here was totally different from our birth plan or previous experiences.
We had our midwives and doula all set for this pregnancy and birth, like before. Knowing our pregnancies seemed to go over their due dates, we were not too concerned. We had a biophysical (ultrasound) scheduled at 14 days over to make sure baby was still happy and healthy. Baby was still happy, healthy, and moving a lot, scored an 8/8. After the biophysical, we met with our midwife and an OB as standard of care at this stage of pregnancy. The concerns at this stage being post due date are, amount of water left, chance of meconium (poop in water they may breathe in), baby’s size (knowing Coop was a ten pounder), her cervix wasn’t dilated past 1cm, and the biggest concern was the life of the placenta. The placenta is the only organ during pregnancy with an expiration date.
After consulting with our midwife and an OB, we realized our homebirth was out the window. The risks to mom and baby were becoming too great. Everything we knew regarding the birth process was gone. So what do we do now?
After some tears and agreement, we decided to stay in the hospital and try Cervodel, a mild intervention designed to help “ripen” the cervix, basically to help dilate it. Trying this meant her care had to be transferred from the midwife to the OB. Which may or may not cause labour to kick in? It is a process monitored for 24 hours. It was brutal being in a hospital so far from the comfort of our own home. At the end of it, she had dilated to 3cm, enough that she didn’t need to do a foley catheter to mechanically stretch the cervix, but not enough to induce labour either. Since the contractions were not strong enough or close enough to believe she was in labour, the next step was to break her waters.
Thankfully, the midwife was staying with us through this new process as our advocate. Luckily, no meconium present – woo hoo. Two hours after breaking the waters, Rebecca was still only 3cm and her contractions had not really changed at all. So next decision, do we try Oxytocin, a drug designed to induce labour. After being in the hospital for two days and already exhausted we decided to get things moving. We agreed to try the Oxytocin.
The Oxytocin worked. It helped start the contractions, slowly ramping them up. Although we were technically under the OB’s care and had nurses monitoring the labour, we had our midwife by our side helping guide us through it. Rebecca was able to move about and labour in positions she was most comfortable. She went from standing, the shower, the birth stool and finally the stranded beetle position, as our midwife called it. Basically on her back with legs back and hips up, allowing baby to move around under her pelvis.
The OB and staff were all present for the delivery. As the baby was crowning, our midwife had to move out of the way. It soon became apparent as the head was working its way out that this was going to be another large baby. Once the head was out, baby was stuck. Shoulder dystocia, a broad baby. The young resident tried to assist the baby out. Made me want to throw up as a chiropractor and dad watching them grab and pull around the neck and head. It took everything I had not to curse and swat them away. After a failed attempt to extract the baby, the lead OB stepped in and turned the shoulders and pulled the baby out.
Immediately after delivery, our midwife was back in the game, resuming primary care. She laid him on Rebecca’s tummy and cleaned him all up. To my amazement, the OB and staff quickly cleaned up and exited the room. The OBs were very patient with us. Especially knowing they would have started interventions sooner, they respected our wishes. We greatly thank our midwife for being a strong advocate for helping create the closest birth plan we could.
We weren’t out of the woods yet. Shortly after delivery, Rebecca’s uterus was not contracting enough and was still “boggy.” Large blood clots were being expelled as she started hemorrhaging. The OB and staff were quickly called back into the room. The energy in the room immediately changed from warm and cozy with our new big boy to a very scary and unknowing situation.
They immediately got Rebecca hooked up to an IV drip of Oxytocin and two other medications. all designed to cause uterine contractions and stop the hemorrhaging. At the same time, the OB had to reach elbow-deep inside Rebecca and scoop out the rest of the clots. Knowing Rebecca did not have any pain medications during labour and delivery, she warned her it was going to be extremely painful. Standing by Rebecca’s side, holding her hand and trying to reassure her everything was going to be ok, I had no idea what was happening and was scared to my core. As painful and as scary as it was, they quickly got Rebecca stable.
I thank God for having us in the right place for the birth of our third child, although it wasn’t our original plan. I am so thankful for the expertise the OB and staff has and the care they offered us in our time of need. We could not have done it without them. I am so grateful that I was able to take my wife and baby boy home.
I learned two things from this experience that I truly believe were meant to be in order for me to be a better husband, father, and doctor myself. One, our pregnancy and birth plan, our ideal delivery may not have happened the way we wanted, but mom and baby are safe and healthy, so who cares how they got here. We have to make the best-informed choices regarding our beliefs and risks we find acceptable. Then we move forward from that one step at a time to ensure everyone’s health and safety.
Second, with utmost certainty, ALL babies need to be checked for subluxations. Our first two children had subluxations after a seemingly untraumatic birth. Tristan had multiple subluxations, shoulder, cervical, and cranial strain due to the assistance of the shoulder dystocia. He is currently receiving craniosacral therapy as well as chiropractic adjustments to alleviate his birth trauma.
No matter your belief or decision to use a midwife or OB, I truly believe both their positions are to keep mom and baby safe and healthy. Their approaches to pregnancy and birth may be different, but their outcome goal is the same. So no matter what you choose or don’t choose regarding your birth, I wish you a healthy mom and healthy baby.
I am so grateful that my beautiful wife Rebecca was willing to go through multiple pregnancies and births in order to create the family of our dreams. Words and spa pampering are not enough to tell her thank you for being willing to go through all that, but I’ll try my best. (I love you honey, thank you!)
I have a greater empathy today with patients who had an amazing pregnancy only to have their birth plan thrown out the window and a more traumatic scenario unfold before their precious little one was in their arms all snug and cozy. I have a greater certainty that all babies need to be checked for subluxations no matter how they were delivered, and that all subluxations need to be corrected in order to release their God-given potential to be the amazing person they are meant to be.
Dr. Jason and his beautiful wife Dr. Rebecca have two practices, one in Kingston and one on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Reserve. When they are not having fun adjusting, they are busy having fun playing outdoors with their three kids.